Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/187

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175
THE CEREMONIAL USE OF TOBACCO.

much might be said; but leaving this for the present, I desire to call attention to a phase of the subject which has received but little attention, namely, the ceremonial use of tobacco by the natives of America.

Since the world-wide diffusion of the tobacco habit, its earliest, and perhaps original, use has been in a great measure overlooked. With the aborigines of America, smoking and its kindred practices were not mere sensual gratifications, but tobacco was regarded as an herb of peculiar and mysterious sanctity, and its use was deeply and intimately interwoven with native rites and ceremonies. With reasonable certainty the pipe may be considered as an implement the use of which was originally confined to the priest, medicine-man, or sorcerer, in whose hands it was a means of communication between savage man and the unseen spirits with which his universal doctrine of animism invested every object that came under his observation. Similar to this use of the pipe was its employment in the treatment of disease, which in savage philosophy is always thought to be the work of evil spirits. Tobacco was also regarded as an offering of peculiar acceptability to the unknown powers in whose hands the Indian conceived his fate for good or ill to lie; hence it is observed to figure prominently in ceremonies as incense, and as material for sacrifice. It will be my task to collect here some of the many observations of travelers, and of students of Indian custom and belief, which illustrate these remarks.

Embalmed in poetry and frequently described in prose, perhaps the most familiar example of the ceremonial employment of tobacco is the use of the calumet, or peace pipe. In its pungent fumes agreements were made binding, enmity was disarmed. It was at once the implement of Indian diplomacy, the universally recognized emblem of friendship, the flag of truce used in approaching strange or hostile tribes, the seal of solemn compacts. Upon its use was founded the widely diffused calumet dance, a performance reserved for occasions when it was desired to express special friendship. Like many other usages connected with the pipe, the calumet, with the traditions which surround it, have survived to the present day. In many parts of Canada and the western United States the visitor to the Indian villages is still expected to present pipes and tobacco as evidences of amity and good will.

There were other sacred pipes besides the calumet, and these were called into requisition on every possible occasion—in the election of chiefs, in the ceremony of adoption into the tribe, at the beginning of a hunt, on going to war, at the end of the harvest, and in innumerable other acts of Indian life, both public and private, as well as in many dances and festivals. Tobacco, in short, was intimately connected with the entire social and reli-